“The wealthy rub elbows with the poor — and are better for this contact,” said architect George Rapp of his Loew’s Jersey and Kings Theatres–two of the five Loew’s Wonder Theatres built in 1929-30 around the NYC area. The over-the-top, opulent movie palaces were built by the Loew’s Corporation not only to establish their stature in the film world but to be an escape for people from all walks of life. This held true during the Great Depression and World War II, but by the time the mid-60s hit and middle-class families began relocating to the suburbs where megaplexes were all the rage, the Wonder Theatres fell out of fashion.
Amazingly, though, all five still stand today, each with their own unique preservation tale and evolution. The Loew’s Jersey, located in the bustling Jersey City hub of Journal Square, has perhaps the most grassroots story. After closing in 1987, the building was slated for demolition, but a group of local residents banded together to save the historic theater. They collected 10,000 petition signatures and attended countless City Council meetings, and finally, in 1993, the city agreed to buy the theater for $325,000 and allow the newly formed Friends of the Loew’s to operate there as a nonprofit arts and entertainment center and embark on a restoration effort. Twenty-five years later, the theater is almost entirely returned to its original state and offers a robust roster of films, concerts, children’s programs, and more.
6sqft recently had the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Loew’s Jersey Theatre with executive director Colin Egan to learn about its amazing evolution and photograph its gilded beauty.
Take a tour of this one-of-a-kind historic gem
Back in the summer we uncovered the history of the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre, which has been home to Long Island University’s gymnasium since 1963. But now, the day before the Loew’s Kings Theatre, a fellow historic movie house in Brooklyn, is set to reopen to the public, we’ve learned that the Paramount will follow suite.
Brooklyn Daily reports that the Flushing Avenue theatre in Downtown Brooklyn will once again show live performances to the public, thanks to a deal between LIU and an affiliate of the Barclays Center, which will bring 1,500 seats back to the venue (down from the original 4,000) and showcase musical and comedy performances and boxing matches, all with an emphasis on emerging artists. The remainder of the space will still serve as a practice gym for LIU athletics.
More details ahead
After nearly four decades of sitting vacant, the majestic Loew’s Kings Theatre in Flatbush will reopen. It was announced in 2010 that the 1920s movie palace would be restored to its former gilded glory thanks to a $70 million renovation, and now it’s been revealed that the reopening will take place in January 2015.
The theatre closed in 1977, but according to a press release, the new Loew’s Kings Theatre “will serve as both a cultural and economic cornerstone for the Brooklyn community, presenting more than 200 performances annually—including music, dance, theatre, and comedy—providing a resource to foster and support creativity in the area, creating jobs and attracting thousands of visitors to the neighborhood.” It will also have 3,000 seats, making it the largest theatre in Brooklyn.
Take a look at the stunning, historic interiors
We’re thinking of becoming local college basketball fans — not necessarily because we love the sport, but because we’re dying to get inside this Long Island University gymnasium that was once the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. Commissioned in 1928 by Paramount Pictures, with a sister theatre in Times Square, this regal venue was the largest movie theatre in Brooklyn, second largest in the city, and the first theatre designed for talking pictures. Noted theatre architects Rapp and Rapp designed the rococo-style palace with 4,084 burgundy velvet seats, a ceiling painted with clouds, a 60-foot stage curtain decorated with satin-embroidered pheasants, huge chandeliers, and tiered fountains filled with goldfish.
Movie houses struggled during the depression years, and by 1936 the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre had lost $1.5 million since opening. In 1950 Long Island University purchased the building, and twelve years later they renovated the auditorium as their gymnasium keeping the original, ornate details of the space intact. The LIU Blackbirds played their first game in 1963, and in 1975 a second renovation occurred thanks to funding from local businesses.
We uncover the storied past of this grand movie palace